We decided to treat ourselves with an early Christmas present this week and got some snowshoes. We were determined to give them a try on our hike in the Sutton Natural Park this weekend, but to our dismay most of the snow melted from the strangely warmer temperatures we had last week. It’s back to normal now, in fact the thermometer read -12 degrees Celsius when we headed out on this hike.
Despite our 6 hours of sleep and the cold that was back in full force, we were determined to go hiking. Being our first winter hike, it took longer than usual to pack our bags, even if this was only going to be a day hike. It’s important to be well equipped at these temperatures, and we don’t really have a lot of high tech winter equipment or clothing. So 5 layers of clothing, a few cups of coffee, 2 hours of driving later, we get to the entrance of the park and it’s 12:40pm. Considering it’s one of the shortest day of the year that leave us about 3 hours to hike before the sun sets. With no time to loose we start putting on the layers, our Yaktrax and Sammy’s newly acquired doggy boots and head out. We haven’t even left the parking and we’re greeted by a splendid wall of ice.
Because of our time constraints , the Round Top peak was out of the question since dogs are not allowed. So that left us with pretty much one worth while destination doable in the time frame we had, Spruce Lake. Since we were all inexperienced winter hikers starting with a short hike was probably a good idea. The first problem, after Megan stepped into a mud pit up to her knee, was our water hydration packs. We didn’t realize at the time that to prevent freezing the tube, we had to blow the water back into the the pouch after every sip. Within the first half of the trip, all our tubes were frozen and slushy. We had to crack the ice to allow the water to make its way, until it finally froze solid.
We made our way to the lake enjoying the winter landscape. I was warm and cozy with my 3 layers, but the girls’ apparently had a bit of cold legs, I wonder why? In the future, NO MORE COTTON! It gets sweaty, damp, and is very slow to dry off. The only upside is that they are comfortable on the skin, but not for long when you’re frozen solid! The best bet is wool, and second best would be 100% polyester.
We decided to take the Chemin L’Arrault on the way back down. I found there was a bit more to look at going that way, including icy slopes and half frozen creeks allowing us to get good use of our poles and extra traction. In the Summer crossing water streams is nothing but excitement for our dog Sammy, but she was less than enthused with the cold. She even dipped a paw at one point causing her boots to freeze, at this point we decided to take them off.
At around 3:30 the sun started to set fast and at one point we weren’t sure if we would make it before dark, we didn’t get too worried since there were trail markers every 10 step. Not too long after, we made it to the car, making Sammy pretty happy since the cold was getting to her. On our way out of Sutton, we found this little chocolaterie that was serving home made hot chocolate. The perfect ending to our journey in the cold, all that’s left to do is to plan the next one.
Pat December 12th, 2013